MINNEAPOLIS — No reliever was more impressive than Michael Kirkman in spring training, but that success hasn’t translated to the regular season.Kirkman has the highest ERA of all the Texas Rangers’ relievers, allowing multiple runs in three of his 10 appearances. He had his worst outing — numbers-wise — on Saturday afternoon.Kirkman gave up three runs on four hits over an inning against the Twins, as his ERA rose to 6.97. But all of the hits were on the ground, and there seems to be little concern about his slow start.“It’s April, so it looks extremely bad when you look at the numbers, but I’m throwing the ball exactly the same as I did in spring,” Kirkman said. “The ball is just getting through, and breaks are going the wrong way right now. But baseball is good at evening itself out, so I’ve just got to stay positive.”Manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux are on the same page as Kirkman. They both believe he has thrown the ball well despite the results.“We’ve got to get him a little more work and his consistency will come back,” Washington said. “You’ve got to give those Minnesota Twins hitters credit. I thought he made some good pitches down and they hit them where no one was.”Everyday manNelson Cruz led the team with 159 games played last season, and seems to be intent on doing it for a second straight season. Cruz, along with Adrian Beltre, has started all 25 games.Cruz said he’s learned to take better care of his body after having multiple stints on the disabled list in 2010 and 2011.“It’s a process to learn how to maintain your body,” Cruz said. “I’ve done a lot of exercise to make sure my legs are loose and strong when the game starts.”Ron Washington has put Cruz at designated hitter for one game and will get him a full day off at some point. But it’s hard to take Cruz out of the lineup, especially when he is one of the hottest hitters.“It’s hard to pull that out of the lineup,” Washington said.Limiting runsEntering a game with men on base is a challenge reliever Robbie Ross welcomes. It’s a stressful situation, but one that Ross has excelled at so far.Ross has stranded all 13 inherited runners, the most of any big leaguer without a runner scoring.“You always put pressure on yourself when you have your own runners out there, but I get pretty hyped just wanting to get somebody out of a jam,” said Ross, who pitched the Rangers out of a seventh-inning jam Sunday.“I just want to feel like I’m helping out the guys.”Minor mattersDouble A Frisco right-hander Cody Buckel is 0-4 with an 18.00 ERA over his first five starts. He had his worst outing of the season Saturday, allowing six runs on one hit with three walks and not recording an out.The organization is discussing the best route to get Buckel back to being the pitcher he was last year, when he was named the franchise’s minor-league pitcher of the year. Two options would be to use Buckel out of the bullpen or send him to extended spring training in Arizona and start anew.Buckel said recently that his struggles are mental, not physical. He entered the season ranked as the eighth-best prospect in the organization by Baseball America.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison